Singapore’s Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking

Last updated on April 22, 2019

people holding out different types of drugs

Apart from Singapore’s notorious ban on chewing gum, foreigners also associate Singapore with her draconian drug laws, known to be one of the strictest around the world.

In contrast, certain more drug-liberal countries such as Belgium or the United States have more relaxed drug policies. For example, marijuana (also known as cannabis) is strictly outlawed in Singapore but is legal to a certain extent in certain American states.

Other examples of drugs prohibited in Singapore include cocaine, opium, heroin, “ice”, ketamine (also known as “special K”) and ecstasy, and are collectively known as “controlled drugs” under the Singapore Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA).

The MDA contains Singapore’s law on drugs. Under the MDA, there are three main types of drug offences:

  1. Drug possession;
  2. Drug consumption; and
  3. Drug trafficking.

1. Drug Possession

It is an offence under section 8(a) of the MDA to possess controlled drugs. The penalty for possessing drugs is a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment, or a fine of $20,000 or both.

Presumption of drug possession

The law adopts several presumptions to facilitate drug enforcement in relation to the investigation, search, and arrest of offenders under the MDA.

For example, if the police finds a packet of special K at your house that your friend left behind after a party, under section 18 of the MDA you are presumed to possess that drug, and to have known that it was a prohibited drug, unless you can prove otherwise.

It does not matter that you have never come into physical contact with the drug.

2. Drug Consumption

Under section 8(b) of the MDA, consumption of any controlled drug or specified drug is an offence. Specified drugs refer to certain controlled drugs that are listed separately in the Fourth Schedule.

The penalty for consuming either controlled or specified drugs is a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment, or a fine of $20,000 or both. This is the same as the maximum penalty for possession.

While the list of specified drugs is a subset of the list of controlled drugs, the distinction is important in terms of punishment for repeat offending.

The general penalty for repeat drug consumption of a controlled drug is imprisonment of at least 3 years.

However, in cases of specified drugs, you will be punished under section 33A if you have been previously:

  • Admitted into an institution;
  • Convicted for consuming a specified drug; and/or
  • Convicted for an offence of failure to provide a urine specimen,

and are convicted once again for consuming a specified drug or failing to provide a urine specimen, you will be punished with imprisonment for at least 5 to 7 years and receive 3 to 6 strokes of the cane.

Urine tests and hair tests

If the police have reason to believe that you have consumed drugs, they have the right to subject you to a urine test and/or a hair test under sections 31 and 31A of the MDA.

Failure to provide a specimen of urine for a urine test, will result in a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment, or a fine of $20,000 or both.

Whereas, failure to provide specimens of your hair for a hair test is punishable with a maximum of 2 years’ imprisonment, or a fine of $5,000 or both.

Presumption of drug consumption

Additionally, under section 22 of the MDA, if a controlled drug is found in a person’s urine, he is presumed to have consumed the drug illegally under section 8(b) of the MDA. This is unless he can prove that the drug consumption was involuntary, which can be a difficult burden to discharge.

Therefore, reasons such as “I did not know that the pill my friend gave me was ecstasy!” are unlikely to hold water.

Possession of drug consumption apparatus

Even if you pass the urine test, possessing apparatus used for consuming controlled drugs, like pipes, syringes and other utensils can also land you in jail for a maximum of 3 years or a fine of $10,000 or both.

Can Singaporeans legally consume drugs overseas?

More adventurous Singaporeans might think that the laws under the MDA only apply within Singapore, and that they can get away scot-free by consuming drugs overseas. This cannot be further from the truth.

Under section 8A of the MDA, a Singapore citizen or permanent resident who consumes drugs abroad will be dealt with as if that offence had been committed within Singapore and punished accordingly.

Random checks are conducted at Singapore’s entry points (such as Changi Airport and Woodlands Checkpoint) to test if travellers have consumed drugs before entering Singapore.

3. Drug Trafficking

The most serious of the trio is the offence of drug trafficking under section 5 of the MDA.

If you are involved in selling, transporting, delivering, distributing or even offering to do any of these acts, you would be committing an offence.

On the other hand, you can also be convicted if you order someone else to transport any controlled drug. This also applies to trafficking drugs on someone else’s behalf, regardless of whether that person is in Singapore.

A point to note is that under the MDA, trafficking drugs and importing/exporting drugs are different, but both are offences under the Act.

Presumption of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking

If the quantity of drugs in your possession exceeds a certain amount, as stipulated under section 17 of the MDA, you are presumed to possess the drugs for the purpose of trafficking.

For example, if you are found with up to 25 grammes of ice, you can only be charged with possession. But if you have more than 25 grammes of ice in your possession, you can be charged with drug trafficking instead.

Penalty for drug trafficking

Depending on the class and the quantity of the drugs trafficked, the penalty ranges from imprisonment and strokes of cane to the mandatory death penalty.

For example, if you are convicted of trafficking controlled drugs containing more than 250 grammes of “ice”, you will face a mandatory death penalty.

However, with effect from 1 January 2013, convicted drug traffickers may be able to avoid the mandatory death penalty if they can prove that they were only couriers in charge of transporting, sending or delivering the drug.

Additionally, it has to be shown that:

  • They had either “substantively assisted” the Central Narcotics Bureau (the government agency in charge of drug enforcement in Singapore, also known as CNB) in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Singapore; or
  • They were suffering from a condition that substantially impaired their mental responsibility for their actions.

In such circumstances, the drug trafficker may be sentenced to life imprisonment instead. If the drug trafficker managed to avoid the death penalty on the basis of only having “substantively assisted” CNB, he must also be caned up to 15 strokes.

Currently, the extent of assistance the drug trafficker must have given in order for his efforts to be regarded as “substantive” is unclear, and is entirely at the Public Prosecutor’s discretion.

You can read more about the death penalty in Singapore in our other article.

Rehabilitation for drug addicts

A drug addict is someone who has developed a desire or need to continue consuming drugs, or is dependent on the effects of drugs.

If the Director of CNB suspects that you are a drug addict, you may be required to be medically examined and observed, or be subject to urine and/or hair testing.

Through the results of the examination, you may be ordered to be admitted into a rehabilitation centre to undergo treatment and rehabilitation for 6 months (extendable up to 3 years) at the Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs). This only applies if you are arrested solely for drug consumption.

Such an order would be in imposed in lieu of a jail sentence for first and second-time drug abusers. After that, if you are arrested for drug consumption again, you will be tried in court and upon conviction, will face a long-term prison sentence.

Youth drug addicts aged 16 to below 21, will be placed in a 6-month residence at the Community Rehabilitation Centre (CRC) upon being detained in the DRC.

Nevertheless, proposed changes to the MDA discusses detaining third-time and subsequent repeat drug abusers who have not committed other crimes in the DRC, to a maximum of 4 years in cases of high-risk repeat drug abusers.

Arrest and Investigation
  1. Police Investigation Process in Singapore
  2. When Can the Police Arrest Someone?: Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
  3. Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
  4. Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
  5. Is Lying to the Police or Authorities an Offence in Singapore?
  6. Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
  7. What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
  8. Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  9. What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
  10. Do You Have a "Right to Remain Silent" to the Police in Singapore?
  11. Extradition: What If You Flee after Committing Crime in Singapore?
  12. Warrant of Arrest: What to Do If It is Issued Against You in Singapore
  13. Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
  14. Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
  1. The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
  1. Magistrate’s Complaints, Private Summons and Private Prosecutions in Singapore
  2. Prosecutorial Discretion in Singapore
  3. What is Private Prosecution?
  4. Compounding or Composition of Offences in Singapore
  5. Criminal Records in Singapore
  6. Plea Bargaining in Singapore: All You Need to Know
Criminal Proceedings
  1. Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
  2. Exercising Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
  3. Claiming Trial as an Accused
  4. Mitigation Plea
  5. Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
  6. Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
  7. Presidential Clemency in Singapore
  8. Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
  9. Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
  10. Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
  11. 7 Detention Orders in Singapore and When Will They be Ordered?
  12. Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
  13. Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
  14. Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
  15. Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
  16. Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
  17. Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
  18. Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
  19. How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
Sexual Offences
  1. Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
  2. Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
  3. What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
  4. What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
  5. Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
  6. Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
  7. Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
  8. STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
  9. Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
Vice-Related Offences
  1. Is it illegal to visit prostitutes in Singapore?
  2. Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
  3. Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
  4. When Can You Legally Gamble (In Public or Online) in Singapore?
  5. Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
  6. DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
  7. Legal Drinking Age in Singapore and Other Drinking-Related Laws
  8. Singapore's Legal Smoking Age and Common Smoking Offences
  9. The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
  1. Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
White-Collar Crimes
  1. Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: Elements and Penalties
  2. Dishonest assistance and knowing receipt - The case of David Rasif
  3. Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
  4. All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
  5. 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
Other Criminal Offences
  1. Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore: Differences & Penalties
  2. Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
  3. Is it illegal to feed stray animals in Singapore?
  4. Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore
  5. Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
  6. What are Sham Marriages and Are They Illegal in Singapore?
  7. Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore: Police Permits and the Public Order Act
  8. Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
  9. Penalties for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting in Singapore
  10. Voluntarily Causing Hurt Penalties in Singapore (Non-Arrestable)
  11. Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
  12. Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
  13. Complete Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
  14. Is Joining a Gang Illegal in Singapore?: Being Recruited and Penalties
  15. What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
  16. Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
  17. Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
  18. Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
  19. Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
  20. Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
  21. Littering and Killer Litter Offences: Here are the Penalties in Singapore
  22. Organised Crimes: Penalties/Orders Syndicates Face in Singapore
  23. Animal Cruelty in Singapore: Offences, Penalties & How to Report
  24. Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
  25. Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
  26. Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
  27. Kidnapping Scam: Penalties & Responding to a ‘Kidnap Call/Text'
  28. Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
Certificate of Clearance
  1. How Do You Apply for a Certificate of Clearance in Singapore?